Australians in a widespread Sydney area are experiencing death and destruction that climate change scientists have warned, yet the powerful storm that began three days ago was “unexpected” and hit thousands of people by surprise, according to new reports. Hundreds of people are being told today to evacuate after the powerful wind storm that sent 50 foot killer waves along the coast.
The powerful storm has caused a major blackout. It is threatening more flooding and has already killed at least three and injured many. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is increasingly criticized for supporting the fossil fuel industry over human rights regarding climate change.
Fierce storm send Australians fleeing for their lives
“The ferocity of the storm has taken the region by surprise. Homes have been swept away, cars crushed, trees uprooted and power poles snapped,” the BBC reports.
Powerful winds and unprecedented rain still threaten over 200 homes in the south-west of Sydney from rising river levels, officials warned. Already, three deaths have been reported. Over 100 people had to be rescued heavy rain and high winds in the state of New South Wales.
The fierce weather is expected to continue at least another day, leaving thousands of people without provisions. Approximately 200,000 homes remain without power.
“Parts of the region have experienced more than 30cm (one foot) of rainfall, wind gusts of more than 100km/h (60mph) and waves reaching record heights of 15m (50ft),” BBC reported Wednesday morning.
The Georges River is about to burst its bank, according to officials early Wednesday morning, warning residents to immediately flee.
“To give you a sense of the size and scope – in Dungog [north of Sydney] there’s more rain that has come down in the last 24 hours than they have seen in a 24-hour period for the past century,” said Mr Baird.
In Greta, north-west of Newcastle, that saw 30cm of rainfall, a man said the water rose so fast, it reached waist height before he thought to call emergency services.
“About lunch time it was lapping at the back steps and I thought I had better get out of here. I put a pair of jeans on, a jumper and tried to get out the front door,” Henry Krayevski told ABC News.
By the time his rescuers reached him, Mr Krayevski was clinging to a tree outside, with flood water chest high.
Three elderly people died on Tuesday after becoming trapped in their home in Dungog because of flash floods triggered by such heavy rainfall.
Abbott government fossil fuel business as usual amid climate crisis
Warmer waters caused by global warming power deadly storms, according to climate scientists. These scientists blame global warming on such killer storms, including Hurricane Katrina that devastated Louisiana’s coast up through New Orleans in 2005. Modelling by the national science agency the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology predicts average temperatures in Australia could rise by over 5C by 2090.
Australian government increasingly faces criticism at home and overseas for fossil fuel business as usual instead of taking climate change seriously. An Australian energy policy white paper released earlier this month was heavily criticized by groups, including the Energy Supply Association of Australia that represents power station owners, for almost completely ignoring the issue. Today, the Abbott government might have second thoughts as the latest storm continues pounding its severe destruction over the heavily populated region around Sydney.
“Australia has one of the world’s highest per capita global warming emissions rates, as well as vast coal reserves that make it the largest exporter of coal in the world,” says the Union of Concerned Scientists on its website. “While coal is also New Zealand’s most abundant fossil fuel, the island nation generated 73 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2009. New Zealand’s biggest source of emissions is from its agricultural and forestry sectors.
“Global warming impacts already underway in Australia and New Zealand include water stress, shrinking glaciers, rising sea level, regional disturbances in rainfall patterns, and increased frequency and intensity of fires and heat waves. Because of these impacts and its contributions to global warming emissions, this region must take swift action to curb global warming emissions.”
Canberra’s stubborn stance on global warming has prompted China this week to accuse Australia of doing less to cut emissions than it is demanding of other developed countries, and asked it to explain why this was fair. Beijing questioned whether the Abbott government’s emissions reduction fund – at the center of its direct action policy, under which the government will pay some emitters to make cuts – would be enough to make up for the axed carbon price and meet Australia’s commitment of a minimum 5 per cent emissions cut below 2000 levels by 2020. Those questions were lodged with the United Nations for Australia to answer before the December climate summit in Paris, where the world is supposed to sign a global deal to combat climate change.
Australia’s commitments are “woefully inadequate” for it to do its fair share in meeting the agreed global target of keeping warming to within 2 degrees, deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute and a long-time observer of climate negotiations Erwin Jackson said this week. The Australian Conservation Foundation has warned that “some parts of Australia could become uninhabitable”.
Green Party leader Christine Milne said earlier this year, “All the projections they [the Abbott government] want to talk about – about the economic growth, about food and agribusiness – will come crashing down unless we get serious about global warming.”